John’s Review of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever After

It feels weird to be back writing another superhero movie review already. It’s been a couple of weeks, right? Black Adam and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever are very different superhero movies. Black Adam is the vanity project of the world’s baldest man. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a tribute to a great actor who should still be very much alive. And it also introduces Namor and Atlantis, which is cool. Anyway, no spoilers first and then spoilers later. You get it.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever stars Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Tenoch Huerta, Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Dominique Thorne, and Martin Freeman. It was directed by Ryan Coogler, who previously directed Creed and Black Panther. Which is a funny coincidence because Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the sequel to Black Panther. It’s so random that he directed both of them, right? Is this a good joke? No? Anyway, it was also written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, who wrote the last movie as well. But yeah. Let’s get into it, shall we? Review time!

Quick Plot Rundown –
Following the death of their beloved monarch, Wakanda has to protect itself against foreign enemies looking to take advantage of their recent loss. Amidst all the upheaval facing Wakanda, both within their borders and outside, a mysterious underwater nation surfaces(pun intended), led by a fearsome warrior king, and starts their own conflict with Wakanda. Wakanda must defend itself from these invaders and find a way to recover from the loss of their king.

General Non-Spoilery Thoughts –
This is a sad movie. That was to be expected, since the main actor died before they could make it. And you can feel that, through the entire thing. This movie is about loss. About mourning what could have been, both for the character of T’Challa and the man who played him. It feels weird reviewing this because it kind of doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie? Narratively it is very much a Marvel movie, but they focus so much on T’Challa’s passing that the movie keeps stopping in it’s tracks to acknowledge how sad everyone is. Chadwick Boseman’s passing makes this movie unique in that it’s like watching a memorial service rather than a generic “find a macguffin, fight a faceless army, learn to believe in yourself, and shoot a beam of energy at a villain that looks like you but slightly different and the beam of energy meets the villain’s beam of energy meets in the middle and either explodes or wavers from side to side or both” superhero movie. And I think that’s effective. This movie is sad and about grief, and I kind of think that was the right move to make. At one point Shuri thinks back to happy moments with her brother from the first one, and we see T’Challa smiling and having fun. And I almost cried. It was a nice moment.
It isn’t all about how sad people are about T’Challa though, because that’s not enough to base a movie around. As I said before, this movie is all about the conflict between Wakanda and Talocan, the Aztec reimagining of the city of Atlantis. Also we get the introduction of Ironheart, the teenage genius who builds her own Iron Man suit. There’s lots of complicated elements going on and political intrigue and all that good stuff. I liked this movie. It’s way too long, but I thought the conflict between Wakanda and Talocan and the interpretation of Namor were all good things. I don’t know. It was a solid enough movie. There are some plotlines that don’t necessarily need to be explored as much as they are. And there’s some wonky CGI, specifically in the underwater moments. But again. Sad.
And I guess my main complaint, even though I did like this movie, is that it feels hollow. It is a movie all about supporting characters having to step up after the death of the main character, and because he’s not here it feels like the movie is missing something. I know that’s a weird complaint and it’s not like that could be helped. I know some people may say that they didn’t need to make another one. But the reason Chadwick kept making these movies even when he was literally dying from cancer is because he knew these movies are important and what he was doing really mattered. If they had retired these characters and just never revisited them again, it would have done a disservice to his memory. Obviously Disney still wanted to make money, too, but I feel that it’s more than just that. But like I said, they did a really good job making you feel the grief and loss throughout this movie, because man, I really wish Chadwick Boseman was still alive. Fucking cancer sucks.
Don’t watch this if you aren’t in a good place right now or if you recently lost someone. I wasn’t particularly depressed when I went into this, but I left feeling very sad and hollow.

Characters –
Shuri – Letitia Wright
I’m not really sure how much we’ll be seeing Shuri after this. That’s not a spoiler, there were apparently some disputes on set because Letitia Wright didn’t want to get the Covid vaccine, and Disney is usually pretty strict on that stuff. That’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to accidentally slander someone that isn’t Jared Leto. I’m just saying there’s a possibility Disney won’t want to work with her again. Which would be a bummer, because she’s really good in this movie. She’s also fine in Death on the Nile, which is a boring movie. It’s really interesting to see her step up in this. Because of Chadwick’s death she went from being the funny sister to the brooding and heavily depressed protagonist who is now somewhat a shell of her former self. Also her arc in this kind of reflects T’Challa’s arc in Civil War, which I thought was kind of cool and interesting, making her learn the same lesson her brother learned. If you wanted more of the comedic “WHAT ARE THOSE” Shuri from the first one, you aren’t going to get that, but she is still fantastic in this movie.

Ramonda – Angela Bassett
Angela Bassett is a literal queen. Everyone should worship Angela Bassett because she’s so goddamn amazing, and one great thing about this movie is that she gets to step up and put in an incredible performance as one of the co-leads of this movie. It’s kind of insane that one of the main leads of this big budget superhero movie is a sixty-four year old African American woman. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, by the way. It’s awesome. Most superhero movies are led by thirty year old white guys named Chris, so it’s really cool that we’re finally breaking free from that mold, and that people who typically only watch action movies are finding out what a badass Angela Bassett is. I haven’t actually seen that many movies with her in them, but if you want to see an amazing episode of television, you should go to Netflix and watch Master of None, season 2 episode 8. You don’t need to watch the rest of the show(Even though it’s really good.)because this episode stands on it’s own. It’s called Thanksgiving, and it’s all about a woman’s relationship with her mother told over the course of several Thanksgivings. It’s truly excellent and Angela Bassett is incredible as the mother. Watch it. Anyway, Angela Bassett is awesome, and she’s awesome in this. There’s a bit in the trailer where she just yells about everything she’s lost and how all she has left is Wakanda. It’s truly powerful. I wish she was in this more.

Okoye – Danai Gurira
Okoye was my favorite character in the last movie(Except for M’Baku and Klaue and Killmonger and Shuri and T’Challa. I should rewatch Black Panther. It’s a really good movie.), and I think she’s still my favorite character in this. I think. We’ll get into it. Anyway, she’s great. I think this character is really interesting because her sense of duty to her country is constantly coming into conflict with her personal life and her friendships and relationships. I would love to see her get a series or a movie where they delve into why she is, seemingly moreso than all the other characters, so deeply devoted to serving her people.

Nakia – Lupita Nyong’o
I recently saw an interview with Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke where they were playing a MCU quiz, and Lupita Nyong’o got super invested and got really excited whenever she got a question right. She seems really cool and funny, and I’m glad she got more to do in this movie than in the last one. Nakia is one of the few MCU love interests that’s been given a character and story of her own. Marvel has a bad history of introducing great actresses as one-dimensional love interests for their male superheroes. Some of them are retroactively given more to do as characters, like Jane Foster and Christine Palmer, some of them have faded away into the background, like Betty Ross in The Incredible Hulk, and two of them in particular have remained boring and fairly one dimensional the entire time. I’m talking about Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Pots and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter. Don’t come at me. I’ll conclude my rant about female characters in the MCU by saying that Peggy Carter is and always has been amazing. Anyway Lupita Nyong’o is cool and she’s really good as Nakia in this particularly. She hasn’t shown up since Black Panther, and I thought they addressed that in an interesting way.

M’Baku – Winston Duke
M’Baku is the best! Winston Duke is the best! But much like Wong in Multiverse of Madness, he isn’t in this nearly enough. Come on, Marvel. When audiences fall in love with your side characters you give them more to do in the sequel, not less. Why did I have to suffer through so many annoying Korg scenes in Love and Thunder when M’Baku is barely in this??? Also Marvel, while I have you, can you make your movies less generic? I don’t really give a shit, but I’m sick of having to listen to people complain about how “Marvel used to be so much better”. Like I said, he isn’t given much to do in this that I can talk about pre-spoilers. I get the idea the writers had no idea what to do with him, because he’s kind of just there.

Namor – Tenoch Huerta
They completely and fully revamped Namor as a character. In the comics he’s essentially the same as Aquaman, or rather Aquaman is essentially the same as Namor. Aquaman debuted in 1941 while Namor debuted back in 1939. They had almost identical origins. Their human mother had a child with an Atlantean guy and then they became Atlantis royalty. Later on they switched which of Aquaman’s parents were Atlantean. But in this, Namor comes from a Mesoamerican sort of Aztec civilization that became water dwellers for reasons I’ll get into later. Namor is meant to be over a hundred years old in this? He can fly, he has super-strength, and he has cool little wings on his feet that make buzzing noises. And when he flies he kind of zig zags through the sky. I really, really enjoyed Tenoch Huerta in this. In the comics Namor has always been an arrogant prick that flies off the handle at the slightest provocation. Whereas in this he seems much more leveled and intent on protecting his kingdom. But he’s less of a dick about it in this movie I think. I just really liked the interpretation of Namor that we got in this and I would love to see more of him.

Riri Williams – Dominique Thorne
Someone else that I really enjoyed in this was Riri Williams. She’s a fairly recent comic book character, and basically she’s just a young African American woman who’s already much much smarter than Tony Stark and most of the other super geniuses in the Marvel universe. I’ve only read a few comics with her in them, but I never much cared for her. She was created by Brian Michael Bendis, a writer famous for making all of his characters sound almost exactly the same. But in this, I really enjoyed her. I didn’t expect to. It’s interesting, because in terms of legacy characters we’ve recently been introduced to, I felt that she was handled much better than the interpretations of Kate Bishop and America Chavez. As I’ve mentioned before, I felt that those characters both lost their core characterizations and instead were shown to be starstruck rookies in the MCU. But yeah, I really enjoyed Riri Williams and I’m excited to see her become Ironheart in her upcoming Disney+ series. She wasn’t in this a whole lot, but she was fun and played the constant exasperation well.

Everett K. Ross – Martin Freeman
I like Martin Freeman, but I still don’t know why he’s in these movies. In the comics Everett K. Ross is a complete goofball idiot that everyone hates and he can’t tell a straight story. He’s the best. But in this it’s just Martin Freeman. They have revealed that he’s going to be in Secret Invasion, so we’ll see how that goes. He just doesn’t really have a character in this. He just runs around doing agent stuff. At least they didn’t give him a dumb plane flying action sequence in this like they did in the last one.

Score/Soundtrack – The score and soundtrack in this are fantastic, just like the first one. The composer’s name is Ludwig Göransson, who previously wrote compositions for Black Panther, The Mandalorian, and Tenet. I’m sure he did a good job on Tenet, but that movie is so damn loud and hard to hear that I wouldn’t really know. He did a really good job on this, though, like I was saying. What I like most about the score of this and the first movie is the addition of more traditional singing to a more modern kind of backtrack? I know music. Anyway the score is good. That’s my point.

Cinematography –
This is a good-looking movie as well. The Director of Photography is Autumn Durald Arkapaw, who previously lent her talents to Loki. You can really tell that this movie was filmed in real locations and on real sets, rather than just on the volume like Love and Thunder was. And there are some really incredible shots in this movie. They really went out of their way to make T’Challa’s funeral as impactful as possible, and you can feel it in each and every shot. This is unrelated, but the CGI is also solid for the most part. There are some wonky bits underwater, but the reveal shot of Namor’s underwater kingdom is pretty astonishing.

Costuming –
The costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, really went above and beyond in this movie. She did an excellent job last time when she basically invented all these different cultures and tribes within Wakanda using elements from African culture. And there are even cooler costumes and outfits in this. I would love to watch a documentary just about her designing costumes.

Alright, you know the deal.

It’s spoiler time in the city, everybody.

If you haven’t seen the movie then get on out of here.

And maybe you have seen it and you just don’t care.

In that case you don’t need to read this part.

If anyone is even reading this at all.

You know, it’s possible I make that joke a little too much.

I should really just be more in my writing abilities and the general interest that others have in my dumb reviews.

But, you know me.

Self-deprecating to the end.

Anyway, spoilers.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Spoiler Review
So the crux of this movie is that Riri Williams invented a machine that can find Vibranium, and this machine was stolen from her by one of her professors and used to scan the ocean for Vibranium. Wakanda previously believed that Vibranium had only landed and manifested in Wakanda, but there are deposits scattered throughout the globe, and one such deposit fused with particular herbs in the heart of Namor’s village and turned his people into water dwellers upon consumption. Because Namor’s mother was pregnant with him at the time, it changed his physiology on a cellular level, so, unlike the rest of his people, he can breathe air and water. He’s also a mutant. They just flat-out said it. That’s probably the most outright X-Men reference we’ve gotten so far. Except for that time She-Hulk asked when we’d be getting an X-Men movie. Anyway, Namor kidnaps Riri and Shuri when Shuri and Okoye go to retrieve her. Shuri is stripped of her rank by Queen Ramonda as a result, and Ramonda goes to Nakia to have her rescue Shuri for her. Namor is adamant that he cannot let Riri leave Talocan, because if she does she can create more Vibranium detectors and the odds of his kingdom being discovered and attacked by surface dwellers increase every day. Shuri and Riri escape with the help of Nakia, which leads Namor to flood Wakanda with the help of his people. Ramonda dies in the process. I’m really sad that they killed her. Then we get the rallying of the troops montage where Shuri 3D-prints a new heart-shaped herb, Okoye and another member of the Dora Milaje get these new suits of armor and become Midnight Angels, and Riri builds herself her own armor. Despite not believing in the spirit realm, Shuri ends up there upon consuming the herb, and instead of seeing her brother, she speaks with N’Jadaka, AKA Erik Killmonger, AKA the beautiful and amazing Michael B. Jordan. He spurs her towards vengeance while she blames him for burning all the heart-shaped herbs that could have saved her brother. The movie then culminates in a big battle in the middle of the ocean between the Wakandans on a big ship and Namor and his people. Shuri draws Namor away from the battle and weakens him by sucking the oxygen out of him or something, and the two of them have a brutal battle on a small island nearby. Shuri is going to kill Namor, but instead she realizes, like T’Challa did before her, that she can’t let vengeance control her, and if she killed Namor it would make everything worse. So she lets Namor live, Namor yields, and everyone goes back to their cool high-tech palaces. Namor tells his people that Wakanda is now an ally and will help them when needed. M-Baku puts his name in the hat to be the new king of Wakanda. And Riri Williams goes home, without the high tech Iron Man suit she made, because Wakanda can’t let that get out there.

The Villain
What I really enjoyed about Tenoch Huerta’s portrayal of Namor is that he doesn’t play him as a villain. He doesn’t play him as an arrogant prick. He plays him more like a calculating but stubborn leader who cares about his people. I figured they were going to present him as a wrathful and largely idiotic leader who’s being played by his right-hand man, Attuma. Attuma is in this, but he’s more of a brutish lieutenant. There is no real twist villain in this. And I don’t think Namor is truly a villain. This is what Ryan Coogler does best, writing great antagonists.

What this movie was going to be like before Chadwick passed
According to Ryan Coogler, the original ideas for this movie, pre Chadwick’s death, were pretty much the same. It was still going to be about the Wakandans facing Namor and his people, and it was still going to be about grief. Ryan Coogler wanted to make a movie about T’Challa grieving the five years he lost where he could have been serving his people. But, obviously, his death changed things quite a bit. I do think it’s interesting though.

Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Did they need to be in this?
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is also in this movie, reprising her role as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. And there’s two reveals centered around her character. Apparently her and Everett Ross used to be married? I feel like that was a throw away joke they added for no particular reason. And she’s now head of the CIA. Again, I like both these actors, but they kept showing up for no real reason and didn’t really add anything at all. So no, I don’t think they needed to be in this.

Parallels between this movie and the first one
The first movie introduces us to T’Challa by dropping him out of a high-tech plane with his arms crossed onto a squad of unsuspecting mercenaries. It’s badass and awesome. In this movie his coffin, which is emblazoned with the image of a panther with it’s arms crossed, is lifted back into one of those ships using a not-great hover effect. I don’t know if this was meant to be an intentional callback, but I have chosen to perceive it that way. Also in the last movie there were two waterfall fights that acted as turning points in the plot. In this movie there are two funerals; T’Challa’s and Ramonda’s. I really wish they hadn’t killed Angela Bassett.

The Mid-Credits Scene and what it mean(Rhyme time)
So the revelation in the mid-credits is that, prior to the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, T’Challa and Nakia had a child, and Nakia brought their son to Haiti with her to distance him from the pressures of the throne. And the big reveal is that because of the blip, this kid, who is also named T’Challa, is now six years old. Because after T’Challa’s death there’s a one year time jump. So they’re obviously doing this so later on they can age the kid up and introduce this new T’Challa as the new Black Panther. They’re recasting him but with additional strings attached. I think they made the best decision they could, under the circumstances. This way they can still honor Chadwick with later movies. It may seem like pandering, or a way to have their cake and eat it too, but I personally think it was a nice decision to make.

Overall Rating – 7.5/10(I think this is probably the second best Marvel movie we got this year. Every time I think about Multiverse of Madness I like it more. This is a good movie, but it’s too long. I’m not looking forward to watching it again. But it’s good.)
Winston Duke Rating – 10/10(I tried to come up with a pun, but I couldn’t. I love this guy. He should’ve been in this more though.)

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